Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Choice-Based Stimulus Preference Assessment for Children with or At-Risk for Emotional Disturbance in Educational Settings

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Choice-Based Stimulus Preference Assessment for Children with or At-Risk for Emotional Disturbance in Educational Settings

Article excerpt

Abstract

Students with or at-risk for emotional disturbance (ED) frequently receive interventions that include a direct manipulation of consequences. The ability of educators to identify reinforcing stimuli that may function as powerful consequences determines the success of reinforcement-based strategies. Choice-based stimulus preference assessments provide a systematic means of identifying potential reinforcers that have been well researched with children and adults with severe disabilities. However, research concerning the effectiveness of choice-based stimulus preference assessments for students with ED remains limited. Therefore, the current literature review examines the experimental context and effectiveness of choice-based stimulus preference assessments in identifying reinforcers for students with ED in educational settings and the advantages of these procedures over preference surveys. While reinforcers identified through choice-stimulus preference assessment increased the target behaviors of the participants, choice-based preference assessment methods did not unequivocally improve upon preference surveys. Implications for practitioners and future research directions are discussed.

KEYWORDS: Emotional Disturbance, Preference Assessment, Reinforcer

Students with or at-risk for emotional disturbance (ED) have poor outcomes compared to many other groups of students with high incidence disabilities (Bradley, Doolittle, & Bartolotta, 2008; US Department of Education, 2008; Wagner et al., 2006) and remain more likely than their peers to receive services in restrictive settings (Achilles, McLaughlin, & Croninger, 2007; US Department of Education, 2008; Whorton, Siders, Fowler, & Naylor, 2000). Consequently, there is a great need to adopt evidence-based practices that reduce problem behaviors for students with ED, as problem behavior is the primary barrier to access to less restrictive settings (Hurley et al., 2010). Rein-forcement (i.e., a change in consequence that increases the future frequency, intensity, or duration of a response) is a component of many commonly used evidence-based interventions for building appropriate alternative behaviors (e.g., token economies, differential reinforcement) (Alberto & Troutman, 2009; LaRue, Weiss, & Ferraioli, 2008; Petscher, Rey, & Bailey, 2009; Walker, Shea, & Bauer, 2007).

Many effective interventions for students with or at-risk for ED target both social and academic repertoires with a reinforcement-based intervention. For example, Christensen, Young, and Marchant (2007) increased the frequency of socially appropriate behaviors emitted by a student with a history of internalizing behaviors using a variable interval schedule of reinforcement. Ingvarsson, Hanley, and Welter (2009) drastically reduced escape-motivated disruption (e.g., spitting, aggression) in three disruptive students by differentially reinforcing the completion of academic tasks. The success of reinforcement interventions, however, largely depends on the identification of preferred stimuli that function effectively as reinforcers (Walker et al., 2007).

Practitioners often attempt to identify potential reinforcers using interviews, preference surveys, or questionnaires that require individuals or their caretakers (e.g., parents, teachers) to identify desirable stimuli (Ivancic, 2000). Structured interviews, such as the Reinforcer Assessment for Individuals with Severe Disabilities (RAISD; Fisher, Piazza, Bowman, & Amari, 1996) prompt caretakers to identify a list of potential reinforcers, or preferred items, for an individual (e.g., edibles, activities). Indirect methods of reinforcer identification (i.e., survey based preference assessment), however, often fail to identify effective reinforcers for students with severe disabilities (e.g., Parsons & Reid, 1990). In addition, the results of interviews do not always correspond with the results of direct observation based assessments of preference, though they typically increase the likelihood of finding effective reinforcers when the results are incorporated into subsequent direct observation based preference assessments (Fisher et al. …

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